How can you enhance the quality and quantity of your life if you have Cancer? Much can be done to come to terms with a diagnosis and to enhance your quality and quantity of life.
Quest can help you face a diagnosis of cancer and understand that while you may have a life-threatening illness, there’s much you can do to enhance your quality – and quantity – of life.
Petrea King’s experience with Cancer
“In September of 1983 I was told I wouldn’t see Christmas due to acute myeloid leukaemia. When I did see that Christmas , I started working with people with cancer as a naturopath and meditation teacher. I shared with my patients my knowledge of nutrition, supplements, meditation and other healing modalities.” Petrea King says.
“Over the years as I saw many people regain their health. I realised there’s no one pathway to health and healing. There is no one diet, no best meditation practice and no perfect supplement program for all people.
I’ve had the privilege of working with tens of thousands of people on a one-on-one basis and have facilitated thousands of support and meditation groups for people with life-threatening illnesses. I’ve learnt more about life, health and healing from these people and my own experiences than in all my studies.”
I’m living very well indeed, in control of myself, my health and my life. I’ve had good reports from all my medical checks and have just passed another milestone! I’m more relaxed about things in my life – I try not to worry and fuss, to be more peaceful and serene. – Lynne.
A HEALING ENVIRONMENT
When you are at peace, you also create the very best biochemical environment for healing in your body. Stress increases cortisol and other inflammatory markers in our body. A state of calm and inner equilibrium produces oxytocin and the endorphin family of neurotransmitters, and these promote the good functioning of our nervous and immune systems. They calm the inflammatory response in our body.
You might say that cancer stands in the way of you being at peace – and that is certainly true for many in the first weeks after diagnosis when we’re in shock and are adjusting to a changed reality. With good support and the opportunity to talk about what is happening, we can often resolve issues to do with self-esteem, the future, or a relationship or some aspect of our life that’s overwhelming. What stands in the way of you being at peace?
So, began a time of deep thought, meditation and acceptance. – Joan
Focusing only on the physical aspects of treatment means that issues around deeper healing may be ignored. It’s easy to focus on the aspects of healing involved in doing. We feel reassured when we are busy doing, but our doing can be at the expense of our being.
I search for the meaning in my life and feel the challenge is to look for the positives (they’re always there). I’m endlessly fascinated by the great mystery of it all and have decided I don’t have the answers, and that’s OK. – John
Real health is our capacity to embrace every moment, regardless of its challenges, with an open heart and a quiet mind. The challenge is to recognise that we’re here to grow in wisdom and in our capacity to love and make meaning of our suffering.
KEY LIFESTYLE RECOMMENDATIONS
The following lifestyle recommendations focus on ways to achieve real health, based on my experience with cancer patients over the last 35 years.
1. MAKE PEACE OF MIND YOUR ONE GOAL
- By doing this, we create the perfect environment for healing within our body.
- To achieve peace of mind is a challenge at any time. To achieve it while living with a life-threatening illness is a victory indeed! There are many people who, having achieved a deep sense of peace within themselves, have unexpectedly healed, or attained extended remissions or are still alive many years, even decades, after they were told they would die. Those who have achieved their life’s potential – and died – have left a legacy of love within the hearts of those who cared deeply for them.
- We can choose to experience an illness as an adventure in exploring our inner nature, to find our abilities, talents, feelings, unfulfilled dreams and aspirations. We can learn to appreciate life more fully by really enjoying every day lived, by savouring each moment as it unfolds.
2. SELF-LOVE EQUALS SELF-CARE
- When we truly love and care for ourselves, we can more easily embrace our challenges to maximise our health and sense of wellbeing.
- Our behaviours show the extent to which we respect and love ourselves. The body is influenced by the thoughts and feelings we experience. If the subconscious mind – the Default Mode Network – has only ever received messages of a negative, self-demeaning nature, that creates the biochemistry which flows into every cell within our body. This happens via our nervous and endocrine systems.
- If you find ‘self-love’ a foreign concept, think of it as ‘self-care’. It’s your responsibility to take good care of your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. If you make this a priority, then you’ll bring your ‘well-resourced’ self to the challenges you’re facing.
3. MOVE YOUR BODY
- Physical activity is one of the most useful things to do when you’re emotionally upset. It helps to move the chemistry of stress out of the body. Being physically active also helps to keep our weight at a healthy level and reduces stress and tiredness. It helps to keep our bones strong and our hearts healthy.
- We don’t have to go to the gym to exercise – housework, gardening, dancing or just going for a walk all count. If you have physical challenges, then find a form of exercise that works for you.
- Research emphasises the importance of exercise particularly on days when people receive chemotherapy or radiotherapy treatment, even though that might seem counter-intuitive.
4. THE RIGHT DIET
- A healthy diet consists of food from a wide selection of organic fruits, vegetables, cereals, nuts, seeds, legumes and perhaps, seafood and organic chicken. Minimising or better still, eliminating alcohol is a good strategy given that the liver is generally focussed on detoxifying the body.
- Improving your nutrition positively impacts your microbiome (gut bacteria), which is the foundation of your immune system. Indeed, research has found that if you don’t have a healthy microbiome, you won’t benefit as much from chemotherapy. Improving the diet before beginning treatment is now being encouraged by oncologists who recognise the impact that diet has on our gut bacteria.
- At the Quest for Life Centre, we serve fresh, seasonal, wholesome and nutritious food and fresh vegetable juices and it’s gratifying to see the physical improvements in our participants’ health over the space of a few days – good food really does nourish the spirit as well as the body. We promote and eat SLOW food, that is Seasonal, Local, Organic (wherever possible) and Whole.
- Sometimes the more books we read, the more confused we can become! No subject is more open to debate than food and diets. It’s easy to become completely bewildered and frustrated by all the conflicting advice.
- Listen to your intuition and choose a diet that feels right for you bearing in mind the principles of good health – and, if your Granny doesn’t recognise it, don’t eat it!
5. REGAIN A SENSE OF CONTROL OVER YOUR LIFE
- It’s unwise to make choices and decisions from a place of fear. One way to regain a sense of control is to choose your medical team wisely. You are in charge of choosing your medical team. They are in your employ so feel free to seek a second or third opinion if you don’t feel you ‘click’ with the doctor you’ve seen.
- There may be several people on your team including a GP, surgeon, naturopath, massage therapist, radiotherapist and oncologist. It’s essential that you have complete confidence in your doctors’ and naturopath’s skills and that you feel comfortable with them. If you don’t feel free to ask questions, have things explained to you and that you can contact them when you need to, you may not have the right team.
- Persevere until you feel confident in your choices.
6. ACHIEVE DEEP RESTFUL SLEEP
- It often takes several hours to go to our deepest level of sleep. We tend to cycle through the various layers of sleep including light, dreaming and deep sleep. It is in our deep sleep level where most healing and repair work takes place in our body; it’s also when children do most of their growing. When we’re stressed, in pain or otherwise restless, we may not arrive at that deep sleep level or, if we do, not stay there long enough to experience the benefits.
- Learn how to consciously ‘let go’ through relaxation techniques practised during the day when you’re not aiming to fall asleep. Within the first 5 minutes of deep relaxation your brainwave patterns are the same as in deep sleep. If you fall asleep while doing a relaxation practice, you go straight into your deep sleep level where your body does its healing and repair work.
- You’ll find many ideas on how to sleep better in our Toolkit – Keys to help you sleep better
- Meditation is simple to learn and with regular practice brings a great sense of well-being. This can range from greater peace of mind to a relaxed body. Meditation also releases energy within the body which can be used for healing and it literally builds and strengthens neuronal connections in the executive brain.
- Meditation re-establishes the body’s own equilibrium. The Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) is your flight/fight/freeze system. We activate it when we’re stressed, upset, anxious or fearful. You can activate your Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) through meditation and mindfulness. The body’s brain and body chemistry changes from high cortisol (SNS) which has your body ‘on guard’ and waiting for trouble to low cortisol, high oxytocin and endorphins, which form part of the healing chemistry in our body.
- When you activate your PNS, you’ll notice your breathing slows down, your heart rate and blood pressure drop, your muscles relax and physiologically you come to rest as the mind begins to settle and a sense of ease and peace is experienced.
- The Default Mode System in the brain holds all our unconscious attitudes, judgements, stories, beliefs and the “I’ll be happy when…..” stories. When we meditate or practice mindfulness, we engage the Task Positive Network which connects us to our neo-cortex, our higher functioning executive brain, just behind the forehead.
- Mindfulness is about bringing the same quality of observation that you practice during meditation to every activity of your life. When you live in a state of being present to what’s happening within and around you – without judgement or resistance – you will have constant access to your intuition, insight, wisdom, humour, spontaneity, creativity and compassion. These are the qualities of your executive-functioning brain.
- Allow yourself the freedom to find a technique, voice, music or a teacher that works for you.
8. STAY CONNECTED
- It’s easy to feel isolated. Talking to someone who understands what you’re experiencing can be such a relief. Sharing your experiences with someone you trust – family, friends, neighbours – can help.
- Support groups and being in touch with others experiencing similar things to you, allows you to share stories and support each other and feel less isolated. It’s important to be with people who ‘get’ you; who understand why you may be feeling or acting the way you are.
- A life-threatening diagnosis is often the first impetus we have for deeply contemplating the mysteries of our own mortality. For some it presents an opportunity to face and then let go of their fears.
- When we acknowledge that we all die, and we accept death’s reality, we’re more easily able to live fully and celebrate every day. Many people who are frightened of death are also frightened of living. People who embrace the reality of their mortality and make peace with death, are liberated to focus on living every day with gratitude and wonder.
HOW QUEST FOR LIFE CAN HELP
Quest for Life’s holistic recovery-oriented programs have the potential to change people’s lives in profoundly positive ways. Long-term research on the impact of Quest programs finds that over 90% of participants improve their quality of life and feel more in control of, and able to make changes to, their life.
If you’re living with a life-threatening or life-inhibiting diagnosis or disease, the Quest for Life program can help you to feel empowered, motivated and inspired to make peace of mind your goal.
Learn more about ways to make positive changes in your life to achieve healing and peace through our Quest for Life Intensive 5-day Residential Program.